SBJ/20100308/This Week's News

Some conferences cut athletes’ tourney gifts

Several major college conferences have decided that the practice of providing gift packages to student athletes playing in end-of-season tournaments is, well, madness.

Administrators at the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Mid-American conferences voted last summer to suspend the distribution of all gifts for tournaments and championships played this school year. 

“It was strictly a cost-containment decision,” said Pac-10 Assistant Commissioner Dave Hirsch. “It was just part of a bigger budget plan.”

Big Ten and MAC officials echoed that sentiment, and each conference suggested that the decision will be revisited this summer.

TOURNEY TIME
Gifts being provided to teams by select college conferences and the NCAA for participation in March tournaments this year.
CONFERENCE
(No. of packages being distributed)
GIFTS
ACC (600)* Nintendo Wii package, Under Armour backpack
Atlantic 10 (NA) Choose one: iPod dock audio system; Bose earbuds; digital camera; portable DVD player; SwissGear Army backpack. Plus, a jacket and eco-friendly water bottle.
Big 12 (720) Flip UltraHD camcorder
Big East (704) Nintendo Wii package
Conference USA (600) Choose one Sony item: Portable DVD player; micro hi-fi shelf system; multifunction clock radio for iPod/iPhone; 7-inch digital photo frame; noise-canceling earbuds; wireless headphones; 16GB S series Walkman video MP3 player; Cyber-shot digital camera
Mountain West (400) Choose one: Sony 7-inch portable DVD/CD/MP3 player with case; Samsung 10 MP digital camera; Ogio rolling suitcase; iLuv iPod dock audio system with dual alarm clock
SEC (NA) Choose one: Garmin Nuvi GPS, Sony digital camera, Apple iPod Touch 8GB, Flip MinoHD camcorder, Wenger two-tone watch
NCAA (NA) Bench chair, Jostens ring, Fossil watch, backpack, Wilson mini-basketball and commemorative ticket. Final Four participants also will receive a piece of the playing court.
* Gifts are paid for by the tournament host committees rather than the conference.
NA: Not available
Sources: NCAA, conferences

Significant dollars are at stake. Once the NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball champions are crowned in a few weeks, the players participating in this year’s March Madness will have been eligible to rack up more than $3,000 in gifts from their schools, conferences and the NCAA (see chart). Up to 25 gift packages can be provided to a team by its school and by its conference for participating in this month’s conference tournaments, according to NCAA bylaws. An unlimited number of additional packages can be bought and given to guests, such as sponsors and media partners.

The limits set up by the NCAA are similar across most sports and sanctioned events; they are in play not only for basketball players. There are, however, variances based on whether the sport is individual or team-based, among other factors.

By eliminating the distribution of these packages for all sports this school year, the MAC expects to save $40,000. The Pac-10 and Big Ten figure to cut at least $300,000 from their annual expenses. Men’s and women’s basketball tournament gift packages typically make up about 75 percent of the major conferences’ annual gift budgets.

Players are not the only ones who will be going home empty-handed.

“There will also be no gifts for VIPs,” said Scott Chipman, Big Ten assistant commissioner of communications. “And we have not done media gifts for years.”

The MAC, Big East and Pac-10 are among the conferences that also have eliminated those perks.

The majority of the major conferences, however, are continuing with gift allocations.

“We discussed it last spring,” said Mountain West Conference Associate Commissioner Dan Butterly. “We debated cutting basketball and we talked about cutting all sports, but we decided that the overall cost was worth it.”

The roughly $100,000 that the conference will spend this year on gift packages represents 1 percent of its total expenditures for the fiscal year. The conference is, however, buying only 22 gift packages a school for this year’s basketball tournaments instead of the allowable 25 it has bought in years past.

Nearly all of the gifts offered by the conferences are brokered by a third-party promotions company, such as Memphis-based Davene Inc.

“Davene handles everything. I don’t need to ask any questions about it other than ‘What’s our price?’” said Monay Scholle, Conference USA director of events. “I just gave each school an order form to turn in to me no later than Feb. 1.”

Nashville-based Goldner Associates negotiated with vendors on behalf of several other conferences, including the ACC, Mountain West and SEC.

A BASKETBALL BONANZA
NCAA Division I basketball players can receive gifts totaling up to $3,380 from their schools, conferences and the NCAA.
Participation awards
Type of award Maximum value Maximum possible total
Playing in regular season (from the school) $175 to underclassmen/$325 to seniors $175 (underclassmen) / $325 (seniors)
Conference tournament $325 from school, $325 from conference $650
NCAA tournament $325 from school, no limit from the NCAA $925*
• TOTAL   $1,750 / $1,900
Championship awards
Conference regular season $325 from school, $325 from conference $650**
Conference tournament $325 from school, $325 from conference $650**
NCAA tournament $415 from school, $415 from conference $830
• TOTAL   $1,480
GRAND TOTAL   $3,230 / $3,380
* According to the NCAA, this year’s participant gift package has an estimated value of approximately $600.
** The combined value of both awards shall not exceed $650 if the same institution wins conference regular-season and postseason championships.
Source: NCAA
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